Washington plays its fourth consecutive road game overall and third in a row to open Pacific-12 Conference play when the ball is put up tonight in Maples Pavilion against Stanford.
Conference road wins are the equivalent of liquid gold, and Washington (10-5, 2-0) is in position to grab a third one just two weeks into the conference season.
The Huskies used dominant rebounding and sticky defense to stifle California in front of a stagnant crowd on Wednesday. In both conference-opening road wins, Washington has shut down one of the top scorers in the Pac-12. Washington locked down WSU’s Brock Motum in Pullman and Cal’s Allen Crabbe in Berkeley.
Stanford presents a different challenge because it doesn’t rely on a single luminary. The Cardinal (10-6, 1-2) is a more balanced offensive team than either of Washington’s first two Pac-12 opponents. Stanford has five players averaging 7.1 points or more. Its leading scorer, big man Dwight Powell, scores 14.5 a game. He’s one of two Stanford starters in double figures. Guard Chasson Randle adds 13.3 points a game.
The Huskies counter with an uptick in scoring from center Aziz N’Diaye and a growing chemistry, which is a result of its depth increasing.
N’Diaye is shooting 76.5 percent from the field (13-for-17) in the two Pac-12 games. It’s a small sample size large in effectiveness. He finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds against Cal.
“Our guys are more comfortable throwing him the basketball,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “They feel he’s not only going to catch it, but he’s going to do something positive with it.”
N’Diaye’s inside presence will be countered by Stanford’s high-flying Powell, a 6-foot-10 junior who also leads the team in rebounding. He’ll even shoot a 3-pointer on occasion, making him a mobile big man that N’Diaye will have to chase. But, unlike earlier in the season, N’Diaye will have Shawn Kemp Jr. available to help off the bench.
This is just the sixth time since the Huskies’ first season in 1896 that they open conference play with three road games (1911, 1912, 1943, 1993 and 1999). They only won all three twice: 1911 and 1912. UW last won its first three conference road games in 2009 – a season which they won the conference regular-season title.
The Huskies have started conference play 2-0 four times in Romar’s previous 10 seasons, including each of the last three. They have started 3-0 twice during that same span: 2011 (4-0) and 2005.
“Everybody’s playing really well, and we can continue to get better,” UW guard Abdul Gaddy said. “There are players that haven’t even reached their potential yet. We can be even better. We’re doing good right now, but we’re not trying to settle for this.”
Washington (10-5, 2-0 PAC-12) at Stanford (10-6, 1-2)
8 p.m., Maples Pavilion, Palo Alto, Calif.
TV: Root Sports. Radio: 950-AM, 102.9-FM.
All-time series: Stanford leads, 70-67.
Desmond SimmonsF220.127.116.11 35.276.1
Aziz N’DiayeF18.104.22.168 63.644.3
Scouting report: The Cardinal have two of the better big guys in the league with Huestis and Powell. Powell has NBA-level athleticism, and Huestis is an excellent defender. Where Stanford has struggled is with its guards. Randle (37.7 percent from the field) and Bright (34.7), who has been benched, can’t shoot straight this season. Bright did show signs of life against Washington State on Wednesday, when he scored a season-high 21 points. That was just the fourth times this season the Bellevue native has been in double figures after averaging 11.7 points last season.
Next: 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, vs. Colorado, Pac-12 Networks.firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas email@example.com